A disabled man threw a Ryanair flight because ‘a wheelchair could ruin the plane’
A disabled man claims he was kicked off a Ryanair flight after learning his electric wheelchair could ‘destroy the plane’.
Noah Cunningham, of Southport, was due to fly to Rome from Liverpool John Lennon Airport on Thursday April 8, with his brother and two carers with the money he had saved up since his 18th birthday. But mum Vicki said Noah had his dream trip ‘taken away in such a humiliating way’ when staff decided his electric wheelchair wouldn’t fit after he had already boarded the plane.
Vicki said Noah, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a progressive muscle wasting disease, provided the measurements of his wheelchair to the airline before his trip and was not told there was anything wrong. abnormal with the measurements provided. Ryanair said incorrect dimensions were provided and the wheelchair exceeded the maximum dimensions to be safely loaded onto the plane.
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Vicki told ECHO: “He always wanted to go to Rome – he loves history. It was his 18th birthday. He had all this money for his birthday, he was going on this little trip he had been planning for years stuck in lockdown and he was finally going to leave.
“A lot of his friends are going on vacation now that they’re 18 and Noah can’t do that. It was his little trip he was looking forward to and now it’s been taken away from him in such a humiliating way.”
Vicki said Noah had obtained letters from his GP and hospital before traveling, explaining the medical equipment he needed with him on the flight, including two ventilators, a suction machine and a feeding pump . He had also completed a waiver form sent to him by Ryanair to waive the cost of carrying this medical equipment on board with him.
However, Vicki said Noah first ran into trouble when he arrived at the Ryanair check-in desk on Thursday, where staff said he did not know what the waiver form was and told him asked to pay more than £70 to take his medical supplies on board.
Things went from bad to worse for Noah, after he was helped into his seat by the airline’s special assistance team. Vicki said: “When you get on the plane it’s not easy because they have to lift him because he has two metal rods in his spine. They have to lift him in a sling in one of their chairs. They put him on the plane, put him in his seat, and his two caregivers were there – they’re all sitting on the plane.”
Vicki said that was when a member of staff approached one of Noah’s carers and asked for help getting the wheelchair onto the plane. “They came and said ‘we can’t put the wheelchair in, you’re going to have to come and help.
Vicki said Noah’s two carers tried to get the wheelchair onto the plane by taking the headrest off and were still having difficulty when she claimed the pilot got off the plane and approached them.
She said, “The pilot said ‘you’re going to ruin my plane. You don’t put that. By then they had broken the wheelchair – the control – now you have to push it in. All the passengers had been sitting on the plane for an hour, they were fed up as you can imagine.
“[Staff] came aboard and said [to Noah] you will have to get off, we cannot take your wheelchair up. They had to lift him up and move him away in front of everyone.”
Vicki said the situation is an example of the discrimination people with disabilities face on a daily basis. She said Noah had no choice but to return home with his carers after the ordeal and he had now lost all the birthday money he had spent on flights, accommodation , transport and trips to Rome.
The airline told ECHO “as a sign of goodwill, Ryanair has issued a full refund to this passenger”.
Vicki added: “If they had told us a few weeks ago that the wheelchair was too high, it wouldn’t come up [we would have dealt] with that – it would have been a mistake, but at least we would have known and could have chosen another airline, it wouldn’t have come to this point.
“It was going to be a guy’s trip. He has two male caregivers and they’re like his homies. He was so looking forward to it. He’s been on Google Earth planning where he can and can’t go because obviously in his wheelchair there will be many places he cannot go.
“I’m absolutely disgusted for him. It was close at hand – I think that’s the worst thing, that it was at close range and that’s how it went.”
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “To ensure that passengers traveling with their own electric wheelchair can be accommodated, an electric mobility device form must be completed prior to their flight. Unfortunately, this passenger has provided dimensions incorrect for his wheelchair, which turned out to exceed the maximum dimensions for safely loading onto the aircraft.
“Unfortunately, this passenger was unable to fly as the wheelchair would not fit safely in the hold. As incorrect dimensions were provided, we were unable to pre-advise this passenger that their wheelchair would not fit.”